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Recognizing the decades-long failure of U.S. policy on Cuba to achieve its goals, the United States should focus on supporting the Cuban people, including through enhanced humanitarian efforts, bolstering private enterprise, and engaging the Cuban government when possible and with human rights always in mind.

Despite the close proximity of Cuba to the United States, the U.S.-Cuba relationship is deeply strained. The continued U.S. embargo on Cuba, a policy without parallel around the world, has increased hardships for the Cuban people, alienated key partners in Latin America, and allowed global competitors like Russia and China to expand their influence. At the same time, the Cuban government’s oppressive policies against its own people and historical support for antidemocratic armed insurgencies have significantly narrowed opportunities for U.S. engagement amid legitimate human rights concerns. Ultimately, the Trump Administration’s expansion of the most restrictive policies set back any chance of improved relations, caused additional harm to the Cuban people, and contributed to a humanitarian crisis that has led to more than 2% of the country’s population fleeing abroad. 

Relations between the United States and Cuba are now at an inflection point. The July 11 protests that swept the island in 2021 demonstrate that the Cuban people are exasperated with their government and their increasingly dire economic situation. Since these protests began, President Biden has made prudent and measured strides towards establishing a more cooperative relationship with Cuba, encouraging private business on the island, and increasing support for the Cuban people, including by resuming the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program. But these actions are only first steps, and President Biden and Congress can do much more to build upon this momentum. 

Small, private sector Cuban entrepreneurs have been clamoring for access to capital that could help their businesses thrive, support private sector employment, and make it less likely Cubans seek to migrate to the United States due to lack of hope for a better future. Rather than continue the failed policy of broad-based sanctions, your Administration should undertake efforts to increase economic exchange between the United States and the Cuban people.

— Senators Chris Van Hollen, Cynthia Lummis, and Ron Wyden Hear this quote in context

What You Can Do

It’s long past time for Washington to update its failed, decades-old Cuba policies that have harmed the Cuban people while failing to lead to any major changes in the governance of Cuba. You can urge your elected officials to support a modern approach to Cuba, including through promoting the emerging private sector in Cuba and expanding the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program. But these efforts must be coupled with renewed engagement with the Cuban government where possible – and always putting human rights first.

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